GPS run watches: 10 of the best tested and rated
GPS-equipped fitness watches will maximise each and every training session. But does the theory stand up to practice? James Witts gets with the beat…
Today wrist-based training tools are more like mini computers. Apart from Suunto’s Ambit 3, every training tool tested here dips under £200. Against that relatively frugal backdrop – it’s all relative compared to the likes of Garmin’s 920XT at £389 – you’ll still receive enough data to refine your training plans and stimulate the physiological changes you’re after, whether that’s more speed or greater stamina.
Part of that more affordable revolution is down to the smartphone. Nearly every monitor on test syncs seamlessly with an iPhone or Android equivalent, meaning manufacturers can divert more of their resources on software (apps) than attempting to cram everything into a wrist unit and still keep the weight down.
Forty percent of run watches on test here dispense with the humble chest strap, which is great for comfort but just how accurate are they? That’s a good question and one you’ll find the answer to by reading on…
GARMAIN FORERUNNER 10
The FR10 is aimed at those new to multisport metrics, highlighted by the run/walk feature. You simply preset the run/walk time split and off you go. A virtual pacer will also keep you on track, and both features come courtesy of the GPS that, though not as swift at pick-up as the pricier 920XT, is consistent and retains signal well. You can upload the info to Garmin Connect for further analysis. Sadly, there’s no heart-rate compatibility so you can’t purchase a Garmin chest strap and begin zone training; instead, you’ll have to pay a further £60 for the FR15 if you’re seeking bpm feedback. As you will if you’re after daily tracking activities like daily steps, though, at time of press, the FR15 without HRM was available for £99.99 at Argos. At that price it might be a better call.
Verdict: Useful GPS monitor but the FR15 might be a better investment 80%
Related: Garmin release next generation of GPS run watches
SIGMA RC MOVE
How many of you remember Garmin’s original GPS breakthrough in the fitness market? While data displayed on the wrist, it was from GPS information collected via a whopping great device strapped to your biceps. In many ways, it’s the same with the RC Move as it displays speed, pace and distance via the GPS signal on your smartphone. With the latest iPhone 6 Plus measuring 5.5in, that’s a hefty extra burden to carry around on the run. That’s not to say there aren’t virtues here. There’s a HRM strap, a cute music feature where you can scroll through your phone’s playlist, and the voice announcement after each lap to feedback seven parameters of data
is a nice touch, albeit it can grow irritating. Sigma’s Move app is okay but nothing more.
Verdict: Some great features but reliance on phone loses marks 74%
SOLEUS GPS ONE
The name pretty much sums up this watch from Soleus, its streamlined features list aimed at those graduating from training by feel to exercising by numbers. There’s no heart rate to contend with and no Bluetoothing to apps; instead, you’re given distance, pace and speed.
There’s also no chance to purchase a chest strap, either, so presumably Soleus’ intentions are for the consumer to progress onto their Pulse BLE + HRM, which features wrist-based HR measurement at nearly three times the price. Whether they’ll be enticed by the GPS One remains to be seen. Pick-up and retention of GPS is fine, though can take a while to connect in built-up areas, while the holey wrist strap isn’t the most comfortable. The data display’s font is also more akin to an ’80s computer.
Verdict: Nothing special but GPS at this price isn't bad 81%
Continue reading our guide to this year's best run watches (2/3)